It was one of those warm spring days when I left London early to drive down to Wentworth for the start of Wednesday’s traditional Pro-Am shot-gun event which starts promptly at 8 am.. However, intentions of getting there before the start didn’t quite materialise as anticipated and instead found myself running about an hour late and having to catch up with various groups I had earmarked to follow. This meant heading straight for the lower numbered tee-off times first to watch last year’s champion Chris Wood’s group who started from the 1st hole and were already finishing the 5th when I arrived. In Chris group’s were two Olympic gold medal rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave handicapped 14, and Matthew.Pinsent who plays off a respectable 12 plus Damian Lewis who like Redgrave plays off the same handicap. What I find fascinating was hearing Wood dishing out various pieces of advice on how to tackle awkward lies to his fellow team mates. After following Wood’s for a couple more holes, I meandered over to watch Justin Rose, my other hero since he won an Olympic gold medal in Rio last year. His group consisted of Peter Jones, Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy who between them  boasted a total 29 in handicaps. Justin was definitely the father figure, keeping his eye on shots and advising wherever necessary. It was after the 8th that I finally caught up Tommy Fleetward’s group which included Jodie Kidd, one of the few females taking part in this pro-am while on the next tee was Martin Kaymer with three footballing legends all boasting surprisingly low handicaps, Matt le Tissier, 4,  Tim Sherwood,10 and Teddy Sheringham, 5! 

Needless to say, play was slow…. which indirectly helped me catch up with several more groups and their pro-am guests. The one person I was keen to catch up was Austrian Bernd Wiesberger’s group as golf journalist, Hubertus tho Rahde was part of his group and someone I had met on a press trip to Barcelona a couple of years ago. Hubie invited me to follow him when we ran into one another in the media centre the day before and I promised faithfully I would be there but having arrived late, I first had to locate his group, Eventually we caught up on the 14th as they waited for the group in front to finish putting the 13th. It was only after Hubie teed off (after an interminable wait) that he finally noticed me in the crowd and immediately asked me I’d like a bottle of water. I managed to silently indicate I already had one with me, and at that point he sauntered over to where I was standing outside the robes and to my utter amazement invited me join his elite group (who had amassed a score of 12) inside the robes. “You’re my guest”, he insisted as I protested, saying that although I had a media pass it didn’t really allow me inside the robes.

This was a new and interesting experience being able to watch golf from close quarters and Hubie appeared to enjoy every moment. I was soon introduced to the rest of the group including his caddy, Ian and as we walked down the wide fairways was able to ask Ian a few poignant questions about playing Wentworth. I also watched with increasing fascination as irons were selected and balls struck with incredible accuracy. For a couple of holes Hubie played his best golf whether it was my influence is uncertain to say but clearly he was delighted with his eagle on the 10th par three. By the time we reached the final 5th hole,(the group had started on 6th), although not in contention for any prizes, they were happy with their final score. Everyone shook hands and as I waited to thank Hubie, he pointed to the three gleaming white top of the range BMW’s waiting to chauffeur players back to the clubhouse and invited me to join him in his car. As I sank into the BMW’s comfortable backseat that I realised what a wonderful, fun day I’d had, all thanks to my friend Hubie! .  

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From skiing in Livigno to playing golf in Lake Como – what a contrast of sports!

After leaving Livigno mid-morning we drove to the famous Bagni Vecchi baths just outside Bormio to try out the natural hot water spas discovered centuries ago that I had previously read about and are now part of the Bagni Vecchi hotel. The hot water springs have since been developed into a series of spas for the use of hotel guests and visitors. After changing into swimming costumes and donning on white bathrobes handed to us by the spa’s receptionist, we immediately headed for the small outdoor warm water pool already full and where we managed to find three empty ‘flat beds’ made of aluminium rolls to lie on and immerse ourselves in about half a foot of water while hot jets of water massaged our bodies.

Around us was most stunning scenery of snow-covered mountains. Despite being the first week in May, everywhere was still covered in layers of snow left over from the heavy snow storm that had hit this region the night before. After spending half an hour in the open air pool, we then went on to try out the antiquated indoor Roman baths, (apparently identical to these used in Roman times), before investigating other types of spas, some in heated tunnels and others in open indoor spaces.  Afterwards I spent a pleasant twenty minutes ‘recovering’ in one of the themed relaxation rooms which I found very therapeutic.   

Two hours after leaving Bormio we arrived at Cadenabbia on Lake Como and immediately whisked off to a block of large luxury apartments belonging to the Hotel Britannia where we stayed for the next three nights. My large luxury two bedroom apartments had magnificent views over Lake Como, and a large modern bathroom and huge TV screens in both the bedroom and living room. That evening we all met up with the hotel’s owner Ross Whieldon for a glass of champagne in the lakeside Phoenix restaurant which is also part of the hotel. Ross, like me is a champagne lover and over dinner we must have consumed at least a couple of bottles between us but as I was playing golf early the next day decided to call an early night. 

The magnificent Menaggio & Cadenabbia golf club has an 18 hole par 70 course and is the second oldest course in Italy. It was first built in 1907 and originally only 9 holes but over the years the course has been restored and redesigned from a par 64 in 1963 to its present par 70. On arrival I was met by the club’s caddy master who had agreed to play with me and guide me round the course. Although a deceivingly tough course in places, it is a very interesting and pretty course to play and in parts reminded me of green, leafy wide fairways of Wentworth.

Fortunately I was playing with someone who knew the course well and who was able to explain and help me tackle some of its many intricate and challenging holes. After our game, I joined the rest of the group for a pleasant lunch in the wooden panelled dining room overlooking the 18th green and even found time to spend looking round the club’s fascinating library which has shelves reaching to the ceiling and all stacked full of every conceivable old and new book on golf.  

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20170427_093810_resizedThis was my third press trip to Italy in the past twelve months although I have always held a close affinity with this wonderful country ever since spending the best part of six months studying Italian in Florence as a young student. This time we flew from Heathrow to Milan’s Linate airport with British Airways flight (www.BA.com) and after hiring a car through Avis we drove for about four hours to Livigno in pleasant, sunny weather stopping briefly for a quick bite to eat in a family run delicatessen and snack bar. Once off the motorway roads merged into single lanes sometimes windy and quite steep but we finally arrived in Livigno late afternoon and checked into the small but comfortable Piccolo Mondo garni hotel.

20170424_210606_resizedThat evening dinner arrangements had been made at Mario’s one of the resort’s top Italian restaurant where we indulged in a delicious three course meal accompanied by copious glasses of local wine and champagne to celebrate my birthday which I have to say was done in style. As the restaurant lights dimmed, a huge Pavlova cake adorned with sparklers and lighted candles appeared and was presented to me by the restaurant’s owner and a couple of singing waiters while dinners clapped – not sure if the clapping was for me or the singing waiters but it was a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday. Thanks to Graeme, the resort’s PR for organising this unexpected surprise. 

20170425_123855_resizedThe next day we met up with the delightful Domenico, our wonderfully patient ski guide for the next three days and who kept me entertained with tales of the resort’s history. It turned out that Domenica is one of fifteen siblings, most of whom now hold prominent positions in the resort. Considering this was already the end of April, ski conditions were surprisingly good and there was even plenty of snow to ski down to the village but more appealing were the relatively few skiers on slopes. It was a wonderful feeling to be back on skis after almost a year and Livigno proved an ideal starting block.  

The day finished at the resort’s Aquagrande, a large water centre where amongst its many attractions is an enormous swimming pool with water slides, (which I avoided) but instead spent time in the wellness centre having a hot saunas and jacuzzi. As tradition dictates only towels are allowed in saunas and I was given an ill-fitting black paper bikini to hide my modesty! This I followed with a relaxing deep tissue massage and perfect to help soothe sore muscles. The next couple of days were spent skiing wherever Domenica dictated except the day before we were due to leave for Lake Como, it started to rain and by evening the rain had turned into huge snowflakes as big as old pennies. By morning the entire village was covered in snow  – imagine it was already the beginning of May! 

Instead of skiing the next day we took full advantage of the duty-free shopping which is all part of the attraction in coming to Livigno. Altogether there are around 240 mostly duty-free shops and a perfect place to stock up on perfume, make-up, and wine at bargain prices, and another good reason to come to Livigno for a skiing holiday! 

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A few days lapping up Spain’s warm sunshine was on the cards in late March when I arranged to stay in a friend’s hillside villa in Los Altos, a place I had previously visited some ten years ago but predictably much had changed since last there although the stunning views stretching to the Mediterranean a couple of miles away remain unchanged.This time my sister and her youngest daughter Rosy, a dab hand at the internet,  joined me and who arranged our cheap £40 Ryan Air return flights from Bristol to Malaga. This was my first Ryan Air experience and I’m happy to report all went well, both flights arrived and left on time.

The only drawbacks were arriving late at night, picking up a Hertz hired car and negotiating our way on unfamiliar roads to Los Altos which retrospectively turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.

Fortunately, we agreed to pay an extra 200 euros for a ‘super insurance’ at my niece’s insistence as she and her husband had been stung to the tune of £500 when the car hire company they used in Sardinia docked £500 from their credit card after it was returned to the airport and purportedly a crack was found on windscreen, something they are still fighting.IMG_2770

After agreeing to the insurance upgrade, we were subsequently upgraded to a rather ungainly Audi A4 which I stupidly agreed to even though I had never previously driven an Audi, and more to the point nobody at Hertz bothered to accompany me to the car to demonstrate how everything worked which meant not even knowing how it started! Thankfully I found someone walking around in the semi-lit car park who kindly came to my rescue and started the car. Needless to say the drive to the villa was another nightmare in spite of Rosy’s navigational skills!

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The next morning clear blue skies greeted us and after a light breakfast we drove to the local supermarket to stock up for the next few days. In broad daylight landmarks are easy to remember but we still managed a couple of wrong turns before finding the road leading to Los Altos.

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An enjoyable afternoon followed and spent lapping up the sun’s warm rays in the garden but by late afternoon we were in the mood to explore. Fortunately I remembered a place called Capopino about ten miles away which has a small but charming Marina and where we ended up for a late afternoon drink after discovering a nearby delightful beach restaurant where we watched the evening sun set while downing a couple of glasses of local plonk and a plate of fried calamari.

The next day we returned to the same beach, hired three sun loungers for 5 euros and spent the day enjoying the warm sunshine, having a delicious paella lunch and walking along the beach dabbling our feet in the cold seawater before returning to the villa.

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As both Felicity and Rosy wanted to visit Marbella, the next day found us driving in the direction of Marbella but somehow ended up the wrong side of town driving down a horribly narrow one way street with cars closely parked on one side, and somehow I managed to clip one of the parked cars which completely buckled the front-side driver’s wheel.To this day I’m convinced the wheel was already damaged and even the police agreed to this when they saw the broken spindle.

The other car - barely damaged!

The little damage to hired Audi A3 which hardly scraped a car but ended up with a completely buckled wheel

The other car - barely damaged!

The other car – barely damaged!

Fortunately I managed to drive the stricken vehicle onto a nearby grass verge and soon the two charming policemen who came to our rescue had taken over, arranging through Hertz for a taxi to take us back to the villa – thank goodness for Rosy’s advise. As we were leaving the next day Hertz also agreed to lay on a taxi to take us back to the airport!

All’s well that ends well!

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With images of the recent Westminster atrocities constantly on my mind, and another bomb exploding on St. Petersburg metro, you often wonder where you are safe these days but WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES is my motto. Some two weeks prior to Westminster Bridge atrocities I casually walked over that very same bridge on my way to meet friends at the EYE only this time as I was running a few minutes late and I spent most of the time dodging the huge number of visitors on the bridge who stopped here and there while admiring views and taking photos and selfies from mobiles. Doubtless that has now changed. 

A couple of weeks before the Westminster atrocities I spent a pleasant weekend in Sandbanks and more than anything enjoyed of taking my friend’s playful Springer spaniel, Jake for long walks along local sandy beaches and even ventured over to nearby Shell Bay. My friendship with Jake goes back when he was a six month pup and I accompanied my girlfriend who in those days lived in Fulham, for long walks in Richmond Park. Strange as it may sound but Jake and I are still the best of friends and no-matter how long it is since my last visit, Jake always greets me like a long-lost friend. Fortunately this time my visit coincided with particularly pleasant warm spring weather and perfect for long beach walks. It was also the time of a full moon which meant spring tides had left vast stretches of exposed muddy beaches to walk along where normally they are covered in sea water and considerably deeper when its high tide. Poor Jake wasn’t in the least bit impressed as there were no familiar doggy smells to keep him happy apart from the odd fisherman digging for worms to bark at. He soon got bored and took off chasing sea gulls instead until suddenly he realised he was miles away and bounded back in our direction only to find a channel of water had to be negotiated. Seeing him swimming in the middle of this albeit shallow channel, tail wagging nineteen to the dozen and still persisting to chase the odd seagull who were obviously playing a sort of  ‘catch me if you can’ game with him, was so funny to watch all we could do was lapse into fits of giggles. At least we all enjoyed our walk.

As the next day was another warm, sunny day we decided to go on a more adventurous walk with Jake which meant taking the chain ferry from Sandbanks across to Shell Bay. This particular walk is best done when the weather is fine and not too windy as it involves walking over steep heather covered dunes most of the way. and takes the best part of an hour. On our way back to the chain ferry we decided to pop into the nearby Shell Bay restaurant (www.shellbay.net) as I wanted to find out if it was still owned by Peter Farrer, who ironically I am related to through one of my mother’s marriages, only to discover surprisingly he’s still the owner albeit the restaurant is now run by his son James. Next time we decide to take a walk around Shell Bay, we promised ourselves to stop by and have a drink and/or snack there before returning to Sandbanks.

A wonderful day – and  – WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES! 

 

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20170115_143504I didn’t expect to find myself flying to the Red Sea for a winter golf break in the middle of January during one of UK’s coldest winter spells but any excuse to get away was more the motive than the excuse. What surprised me on my arrival at Hurghada airport was discovering the old decrepit airport no-longer existed and had been replaced by an enormous state-of-the-art, spotlessly clean new building. My next surprise was discovering the delights of my first visit to the Somabay resort conveniently less than 45 minute drive from the airport. I was booked into the Westin Hotel as part of a golf package, the Cascades Golf and Country resort is next door and for my troubles was given a comfortable suite boasting a small balcony overlooking the hotel’s large infinity pool.

somabay-1aThe 18 hole par 72 Championship course is designed by golf legend Gary Player and next to the hotel while the Cascades Spa centre short walk away where all kinds of wonderful pampering beauty and therapeutic treatments can be enjoyed. Waking up each morning to cloudless blue skies was another reason I realised why I needed to to get away from our winter blues. .

20170117_162835During the winter months temperatures in this region of Egypt range between 20 to 24 degrees perfect for golf. Each morning over my al fresco breakfast I enjoyed more than anything the resort’s tranquillity while watching the sun slowly rise over the ‘Red’ sea, sometimes in the company of a small group of tiny sparrow type birds patiently waiting to pick at leftover titbits.

On my first day my first tee time had been arranged mid-morning by the ‘Major’, an endearing character who runs the golf club and who first agreed to drive me round the course for a familiarization tour before my arranged tee time, pointing out signature holes and the difficult sloping green on the 6th perilously near to the sea, as well as the challenging 10th bearing all hallmarks of a typical Gary Player design. Fortunately my two friendly golf companions had previously played the course which proved an additional bonus in understanding its many intricacies but be warned, accuracy on this course is vital if you want  to avoid losing balls that easily ricochet off rocks in any direction. As this was my first day of golf I choose to go round in a buggy although my two companions preferred walking, which I discovered later was easier than first thought.

After golf a late but quick light lunch in club’s restaurant followed by a visit to the spa found me dashing off for one of three spa treatments booked prior to my arrival. This treatment was in Thalassa tonic pool spa, (remember to bring my swimming costume) and takes place in a huge square salt water swimming pool divided into a number of sections where strategically placed water jets pummel your body from top to bottom, Certainly an experience not to be missed. The most of following day was spent relaxing by the pool lapping up the warm sunshine before playing the 9 hole par 3 course next to the golf academy and practice range.

With the Red Sea part of the resort’s attraction, I enjoyed the day spent on board a motorboat full of scuber divers and snorkelers accompanied by watchful trained supervisors. The Somabay water sports centre is where anything from paragliding to snorkelling and scuba diving is arranged. A few hours later back on terra firma , it was time for my second of my spa treatments, an hour and half’s sports massage and one of the best I’ve experienced in years. Another round of golf was on the cards but this time I walked and what a pleasure that was.

By all accounts this was an incredible golf, gourmet and spa experience, and I enjoyed every minute of my stay.

For golf email; major@thecascades.com  or www.somabay.com.

If you haven’t heard of TENNIS FOR FREE before let me explain, it’s a tennis charity that operates mainly in South West London arranging free tennis coaching for mostly underprivileged children and sometimes their parents. My involvement started with a chance meeting with its founder, comedian, author and tennis fanatic Tony Hawks some ten years ago. Every Saturday morning Tony would come to the Joseph Hood Recreational ground in New Morden and hit balls with kids of all sizes, colours and creeds. Most had never picked up a tennis racket before, some took to the sport like a duck to water, while others already had a good all round knowledge of the sport and needed to hone in their tennis skills by taking advantage of free coaching sessions. At times there would be 20 or more on one court alone but one thing which is very clear is that all enjoyed hitting balls for a couple of hours which in turn created quite a community spirit amongst those taking part.

When I first started helping out, tennis was taught on the three run-down public tennis courts that has seen better days by volunteer coaches, Most Saturdays I would come to sessions which start at 10 am and usually finish around 1 pm.  Cracks on the courts were everywhere and the nets were mostly kept together with pieces of string (these have since been replaced), yet the run down state of the courts didn’t deter the 100 or more kids and parents turning up each Saturday morning, come rain or shine for their free tennis practice and where Tony initially conducted his free coaching lessons and time permitting give a few minutes individual coaching to as many as he could fit in. The courts are divided into ability, the first is supervised by Charlie who mostly coaches beginners and has been with Tennis for Free since its inception. The second court is reserved for anyone able to hit and control a few forehands, backhands, lobs and volleys, while the third court is for players of varying degrees of abilities but who are keen to improve their tennis and enjoy taking part in Bollittieri style exercises. Finally there’s David’s lot, he looks after children from 4 – 7 years of age, (some older) on what was a former car park but now a multi-purpose court. For an hour and a quarter he manages to keep them all actively involved in a series of tennis exercises from running round the court to hitting balls with special kids rackets supplied by the charity. He even gets the parents involved by asking them to feed balls to small groups 5 kids. At the end of each session David plays ‘Simon Says’, a game the children love before handing out a sweet to each child. The good thing is that there is never a disgruntled or weepy child during these sessions and perhaps why classes sometimes attract as many as 40 children!

My role is replenish balls and have been nicknamed, the ball lady. This doesn’t exactly mean I pick up balls as a ball girl would, but instead go round to tennis clubs collecting discarded balls which are still usable and which have become indispensable in keeping the charity going as no money is spent on buying cheap balls. From time to time, (under David’s instigation), the kids sign a huge ‘Thank You’ card to me as a show their appreciation.One amusing message had me in fits of laughter when one of the kids wrote, ‘Thank you for your posh balls’. This is because some balls come from my tennis club and still have the Queen’s Club logo on them!!

But it is David and Charlie who deserve the most praise for their continuing support over the years. For the past couple of years we have been fighting for funding to resurface the courts and have approached the Merton council and Wimbledon Foundation to sponsor many this. We continue to keep our fingers tightly crossed that one day money is made available improve these facilities.  www.tennisforfree.com

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I was delighted to finally put the Lawn Tennis Writer’s annual Awards lunch put to bed, it honestly felt like a huge load off my mind and why I decided to take a few days off before throwing myself into the swing of pre-Christmas celebrations. An outstanding invitation to stay a few days at Alan Minshaw’s delightfully converted farm house near Malpas was not without a reason even though I was there in early August when we even managed to play a couple of hit and giggle games of tennis on his private court. Only this last time was a different story. Three weeks after my last visit Alan suffered a massive heart attack while watching his sons race at Oulton Park on the August Bank Holiday Monday. The mere fact that he’s alive today is short of a miracle and basically due to the quick thinking of nearby pit side paramedics who worked tirelessly for almost an hour keeping him alive and then rushed him to hospital in an awaiting ambulance rather than the standby helicopter. This enabled them to continue working on his heart which gives you an idea just how serious this incident was. Immediately on arrival at the hospital he was put into an induced coma which he slowly came out of some two weeks later. Everyone thought the worse but luckily Alan is extremely fit and recovered well with only a slight loss of memory and slurring speech to start with which, by the time I arrived, was all but unnoticeable.  Staying with Alan during those few days prior to Christmas was, if anything, an eye opener. It was hard to comprehend just how close to death he had come.

For obvious reasons he was not allowed to drive and I ended up driving everywhere including to The Old Hall Tennis and Country Club for lunch one day. This is where Alan often worked out, usually a couple of days a week. The number of people who stopped by our table to have a chat and wish him well was amazing, and all were surprised at just how well he looked. We even went to his daughter, Emma’s 50th birthday celebrations in Tattenhall’s village hall, his first foray since the heart attack and understandably everyone there was equally amazed to see him looking so well.  A couple of days later I returned to London on bright clear, sunny morning arriving in time to attend a friend’s pre-Christmas drinks party. This was followed by the usual round of proverbial drinks and dinner parties and why I decided to head for Sandbanks to stay a few days with friends Fanny and Robert. It was unseasonably warm weather and each morning Fanny and I would take Jake, their adorable springer spaniel Jake, for long walks along the nearby sandy beaches, what bliss! I have to say there’s never a dull moment chez the Thomases household, whether its people coming to lunch or dinner, dogs being dropped off for a few days stay, or collected or even fitting in a spot of pre-Christmas shopping in nearby Parkstone, it is all part of pre-Christmas fun and enjoyment and why I like this time of year.

 

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As social secretary for the Lawn Tennis Writers’ Association, it’s my duty to organise our annual awards lunch normally attended by well over 170 guests, and which I somehow manage to organise almost single-handedly. Considering I have been doing this for several years, this is half expected but even though I now have a simple template to follow no two years are the same. Seemingly every year coughs up an inordinate number of unpredictable problems.

Normally I start organising the lunch half way through the year after venue and dates (usually Wimbledon’s Centre Court debenture lounge) are decided. FMC, Wimbledon’s catering company is contacted for menu selections and costs. The chore of choosing appropriate dishes is passed on to our treasurer Barry Newcombe who has an amazing knack of choosing the right dishes. Time is also spent persuading and cajoling friends and contacts to donate prizes for our charity raffle and auction although thankfully several prizes are now  what I refer to as ‘repeats’. Editing and printing the lunch’s programme is another labour of love with the final edition handed over to committee member Barry Millns (Sky TV) for proof reading.

During the weeks leading up to the lunch I always carry with me wherever I go a small note-book and constantly jot down notes on everything that needs my attention as well as making a list names of members and guests attending. This information is later transferred to my computer but the notebook and its contents play a vital role in my one man band organisation and fondly nicknamed as my bible. Imagine my shock horror of discovering the book had gone missing during the 02 ATP tour finals, which had me searching frantically everywhere trying to remember where on earth it could have been left. Thankfully it was eventually found on one of the settees in the media restaurant, I mean where else would you expect me to leave it? Panic over!

Generally speaking most of the guests are from the great and good of the world of tennis and last year’s lunch was no exception. During the immediate days leading up the lunch, much time is spent sending and replying to hundreds of emails mostly dealing with trivial matter concerning parking, start times and what to where!. Even our chairman Mike Dickson mentioned this in his welcome speech. On the day of the lunch texts are non stop and a number of last-minute changes and requests have to be dealt with. Fortunately guests joining my table are quite happy to be looked after by friends who act as a replacement host.

This year’s award winners were brothers, Jamie and Andy Murray, although as expected Andy was unable to attend but his ‘International Tennis Award’ was fortunately accepted by his agent Matt Gentry on his behalf while Jamie was presented with his ‘Services to Tennis Award’ and even gave a short and amusing speech. He also helped out with the raffle picking out winning tickets with the help of Sky’s tennis presenter, Marcus Buckland. At one point, the winner of a brand new Kai Nishikori endorsed Wilson tennis racket shyly admitted to Jamie she had never played tennis. To everyone’s amazement Jamie proceeded to give a quick lesson on how to grip a tennis racket which was received with roars of  laughter. .

Marcus also did a brilliant job as auctioneer and had everyone laughing at his endless stream of funny jokes and amusing quips – far better than paying a fortune for a guest speaker. Altogether over £4,000 was raised for Greenhouse Sports charity which provides free sports coaching for underprivileged kids.

Judging from the number of emails received, the lunch went down well, what a relief!? Delighted to have put that one bed!!

End

 

Out of all the indoor tournaments I have watched in the past, the 02 still features as one of my favourites and its safe to say that the 2016 Barclay ATP World Tour tournament surpassed all expectations which was packed with an incredible number of exciting matches to watch and had me sitting on the edge of my seat most of the time intently watching exciting points played out whether a singles or doubles match. Not withstanding the fact the number of matches played by our home-grown hero, Andy Murray (now Sir Andy Murray), was my main focus but it all seemingly added to the excitement of the 2016 tournament.

IMG_9735The 02 itself is an unusual marquee construction and its huge cavernous interior is noticeable from the moment you walk inside where there are is an unlimited choice of bars, restaurants and night clubs. This year’s media centre had a new location on the ground floor not far from the Fan area and if anything easier to access seats and interview room not to mention the restaurant which served delicious meals during the entire week and had a much welcomed free wine and beer bar exclusive to members of the press…!!  The area where the old media centre used to be is to become a shopping mall which is expected to finished by the middle of this year – in plenty of time for the 2017 ATP Tour Finals in November. Coming to think of it, the one thing the 02 lacked was proper shops and I can’t wait for this year’s tournament and find time wander around the shops between day and evening sessions. .

With the world’s top 8 players playing in a series of round robin singles matches that are divided into two groups of four aptly called John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl – for obvious reasons – there  was plenty of opportunities to watch Murray who was drawn to play in the McEnroe group with his rival Novak Djokovic in Lendl’s group, (doubles groups were named Edberg/Jarry and Fleming/McEnroe).

IMG_9871In my opinion Murray’s toughest match came by way of the match he played against Kei Nishikori, which was won in three nail-biting sets, 6-7,6-4,6-4, but more importantly consolidated his position as the World’s number one player. However, there was one major obstacle to overcome and that was to win the finals whether against Djokovic or another player. Winning all three of his round robin matches and his semifinals meant ending up meeting his nemesis in the finals. Should Djokovic win, Murray’s reign as the newly crowned World Number One would be over. Fortunately his matches against Marin Cilic and Stan Warwrinka went to two sets and less intense compared to the match against Nishikori which he won in three tough sets. In the end, the one match everyone was undoubtedly looking forward to was the encounter between Murray and Djokovic with so much at stake and had me sitting on the edge of their seats, but it was Djokovic who surprisingly faltered with Murray producing some scintillating tennis to win in two sets and was crowned the end the of year world number one tennis player.

What a wonderful dream come true for Murray, who in 2016 had won titles at Queen’s and Wimbledon, an Olympic Gold medal, and now the ATP World Tour finals. What a year for Sir Andy Murray! 

 

PS – Gradually catching up with blogs!!??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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